…with this analogy
Ken was demurring when he told the reporter that he may decide to take half a hit and sit on the couch (or was it a hill?) on Easter morning. I imagine he has enterprises to manage, and the sort of insights regular dosing would provide may not be productive to those goals. Or maybe he’s lying. My other idea was that such a personal thing, in addition to being illegal, was just not important to talk about anymore, unless you are, like Terrence was that night at the Great American, cultivating the rapt attention of people aged 13 to 22. These people don’t remember the Bus, or the horror we felt when the one pilgrimaging to the Smithsonian was casually introduced as a refurbished fake. I’m under the impression the real bus broke down somewhere and became a part of the landscape out in Veneta. My heart broke at the news that both the Merry Pranksters and the Smithsonian curatorial staff had settled for second best.
In my brother’s shop, he has a glowing duratrans of Ken pondering the future, which seems to lie somewhere to the upper left of the Bus he stands in front of. The same photographer caught production stills of playing the pale but still supple corpse of Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks. Exhibited together in this way, I see a little story of America each time I enter through the lobby of the shop. If I can help it, I come in the back.
I’m too young for the Bus myself. During college, we toted and tended PA and AV for NORML, Ken-proofed lauvilier mics with duct tape, ripped bongs and dosed early and often, but we knew we were way too late, despite the refinements in the chemical intensity of our sixties legacy. Better, faster, deeper, more, we slipped through the eighties never mixing and never worrying, never doing what we were selling, never impounded, grounded or caught outside, little angels of set and setting.
So when we stood around, fully thirty-something, waiting for the Firesign Theater show to start, the obligatory rock concert doob made its rounds and I took a professional draw and baked it in my lungs for a very very long time. Its effect was instantaneous, but I was unaware of it all the same. Attempting to get the attention of the group, I was very excited to report that an Elvis impersonator had come to the show. How redemptive! I exclaimed. We no longer need to be ashamed to be supporting this obviously greedy and predatory assault on our nostalgia nerve by the washed-up Firesign Theater crew, who, after all, got to fade away and get bit work in car commercials. Someone has taken it to a new level, and is far fucking fat as hell with the late elvis belt buckle and karate pants! It’s all a big lie, muchachos! We’re all pretending!
Concerned hands moved me into the theater, their little president hurried away from the trouble in the street. I had mistaken a large policeman for an Elvis impersonator in the twilight, and he was visibly weighing whether to write me the show-stopping misdemeanor ticket that would end my political career, if it was ever to begin, or to let my big mouth go.
And I’m too young for Firesign Theater, too. In my labile state, their deft use of Joyce in a coda to a sketch had a thundering effect on me. I began to believe people in the sixties were smarter, more engaged, better read and closer to the authentic expression of self. I forgave them all their changes, their sell-outs, their failed experiments, their bad clothing, and their spawn. I yearned, from my seat in the P row, for a chance to think, on a regular basis, as quickly as these people on stage had once, when they composed the original sketch.
You are so funny, I would say.
You are so stoned, they would say.
We had samples, don’t ask us how, of John Perry Barlow skewering David Gans on the radio with a public reading of Pacifica Radio’s rules of allowable speech: the Senstive Language Request/Report form. As Barlow made his way through the foyer of 1015, he passed under the deep sound of us collaging this rant with the low subharmonics of Sound Traffic Control, the twitch of Bob Ostertag, and the ominous chorus of live electronica. Welcome to the Digital Be-In, sad monster child of Leary’s shining circus of intentional community that convened in January 1967. Eyes closed and aching with inadequacy, I layered and layered and layered and layered sound, trying to beat down the thought, now quite deafening in my head, that I was only five years old when this whole thing started. Thinking in a compound fashion, making connections between disparate elements, leaping and inverting imagery, sound, ideas and motion: being, I felt quite clearly, free and yet, quite clearly, not.
Passing the test and failing. On the bus and off. Sliding into the wake of big, beautiful, pioneering craft. In here, it’s wholly different water than the kind they’re encountering up front.